Patrick Kavanagh and Hopkins: A Strange Combination

By Una Agnew, Milltown Institute, Dublin

Patrick KavanaghWhile Gerard Manley Hopkins was a classical scholar, Oxford Don, well versed in the aesthetics of Ruskin and the philosophy of Duns Scotus, Patrick Kavanagh, on the other hand, a poor farmer, had probably never heard of either. He completed his formal education at 14 years of age; school records indicate that he has not been promoted into Sixth Class. Yet, they both found God compellingly present in the created universe.

To argue any strong resemblance in background, temperament and upbringing of the distinguished Oxford Don, Gerard Manley Hopkins and the socially inept, self-educated farmer-poet Patrick Kavanagh, must surely appear ludicrous. Hopkins was born into a Victorian upper middle-class family in Stratford in 1844, got the best English public-school education available, while Kavanagh, the son of a cobbler was born sixty years later in the townland of Mucker, Inniskeen, Co Monaghan and did not progress beyond fifth standard in the small, rural, two-teacher, at Kednaminsha.

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A final reminder that we’ll be celebrating the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins on Thursday, June 23. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for a list of featured poems.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Patrick Kavanagh and Hopkins: A Strange Combination

  1. Rosaleen Cowan

    3. The Habit of Perfection

    ELECTED Silence, sing to me
    And beat upon my whorlèd ear,
    Pipe me to pastures still and be
    The music that I care to hear.

    Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb: 5
    It is the shut, the curfew sent
    From there where all surrenders come
    Which only makes you eloquent.

    Be shellèd, eyes, with double dark
    And find the uncreated light: 10
    This ruck and reel which you remark
    Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.

    Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,
    Desire not to be rinsed with wine:
    The can must be so sweet, the crust 15
    So fresh that come in fasts divine!

    Nostrils, your careless breath that spend
    Upon the stir and keep of pride,
    What relish shall the censers send
    Along the sanctuary side! 20

    O feel-of-primrose hands, O feet
    That want the yield of plushy sward,
    But you shall walk the golden street
    And you unhouse and house the Lord.

    And, Poverty, be thou the bride 25
    And now the marriage feast begun,
    And lily-coloured clothes provide
    Your spouse not laboured-at nor spun.

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